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Favorite Five Books That Play with Story Structure
Well, instead of saying story structure, I should have been more generic and said something along the lines of ‘different ways to tell a story’ but that still wouldn’t have been right and also is a mouthful. So, this post is about SFF books that tell stories in interesting ways, whether that’s the POV, the structure of the story itself, or they style in which its written. The thing all these books have in common is that they’re doing something a little bit outside of the norm. 🙂
1. The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons
This book has a crazy structure and it’s very confusing and even more confusing in audio. It takes place from three different POVs in three (four?) different timelines. Two of the POVs switch back and forth fairly reliably. And I think both of those are frame stories being told from characters in present time? Then at the end, just for shits and giggles, another POV character starts narrating things. Wat. What makes it even more confusing is that both of the main stories are about the same character, just at two different times. WAT. While I think the structure of this one was a turn off for some readers, I absolutely loved it. The structure helped emphasize the bat-shit craziness of the rest of the tale. Don’t try to follow it, don’t think, just let go and enjoy the ride with this one and it becomes a lot of fun. 🙂
2. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
This story is told from three different perspectives–one of which is written in second person. This is a tricky one to talk about without spoiling anything, but suffice to say the structure of this one works really well to tell the story while also giving the readers some surprises and food for thought.
3. Turning Darkness into Light by Marie Brennan
Just recently read this one and loved it. This is entirely an epistolary novel wherein the entire story is told through a series of documents. I don’t think this is something we often see in SFF (I can think of maybe a couple of others–mostly told through letters). This story is revealed through letters, arrest reports, translation documents–really anything that can be written down. I absolutely LOVED the way this one was written, it was so fun, and while I thought that would have created a distance from the characters it didn’t because journal entries were also used. What a delightful read.
4. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
While it’s not that unusual to have a frame story–a story within a story–this sprawling tale and the way its presented has sparked hundreds of theories about how these two stories in the book ultimately connect to one another and whether the narrator of the frame tale (Kote) is reliable at all in the story he’s laying before Chronicler. So, while this may not be the most unique of the bunch, I do think the amount of conversation it has generated makes it worthy of being on this list.
5. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Speaking of stories within stories, this novel is story buried within story buried within story. There are basically three main stories being told, each a little further back in time. These stories are connected through various characters and the stories themselves are revealed through people telling characters their tales either through speech or letters. So what you have is a book of interweaving tales which result in the larger mystery being revealed to the reader.
Well, those are my picks for this week. I know there are a lot more literary books that play with structure more than these do, but for genre these are the ones that stand out in my mind that I’ve read. 🙂 What are some of your favorites with this theme? Leave me a note in the comments, I’d love to chat!
26 thoughts on “Friday Favorite Five: Books That Play with Story Structure”
Super intriguing looking books! I’ve had The Historian on my to-read for years. Some of these books sound like they’d give me a headache, but are worth it overall.
I really loved The Historian. It’s a meandering kind of story with a mystery. 🙂
For the most part I love multiple timelines and narrators, as long as the author can hold everything together. It gives the story so much more depth. These are great examples, and now I want to read Ruin of Kings!
Yes, I agree! The Ruin of Kings was such a nutty narrative but I loved it. For me it’s a rare instance of a book trying to do too much and succeeding lol. Hope it works for you!
I didn’t realize ye hadn’t read this one yet. Aye, it be quite fun even if it did involve some concentration. Arrr!
x The Captain
Whoa… that brings back some memories. I loved the Historian!
It’s such a good read!
Ah, I love The Historian so much! I actually think it might be time for a re-read soon… I’ve had an ARC of The Ruin of Kings that I won last year that I still haven’t read (which I feel so bad about!) because I started getting so intimidated by what everyone said about the structure. I think I may just take your advice and finally dive in this fall–the advice to just follow it and have fun is the best advice I’ve seen and typically works well for me. The Name of the Wind is also a neat one!
I know it is the one thing that people have had issues with for Ruin of Kings is the structure but honestly if you just go with it and don’t worry about trying to figure out what timeline you’re on etc it all sorta comes together at the end. If you try it I hope you enjoy it!
Oooh, have you read the Kiss of Deception? It was one of the most unique way of writing a story I have ever seen! There are three main POVs, two males and a female. Through the female’s POV you meet the men and know their names, but through their POV’s you don’t know which one was which. You know one is an assassin and I think the other was a prince, but their POV chapters are just titled with their profession and you don’t know who is who! I’m not explaining it very well but it was really really cool. (the rest of the series sucked, but I loved the first book)
Not I haven’t read that one but it sounds pretty intriguing, I’ll have to check it out, thanks!
I LOVE The Name of the Wind and Kote 😍 I’ve got The Fifth Season on my wish list/tbr as I’ve heard so many good things about it. Good to know a bit more about how it’s told before picking it up though! Interesting topic and great list 🙂
Thanks! Yeah, The Name of the Wind is so good, I love that series. 🙂 Hope you get a chance to check out The Fifth Season, it’s a fantastic read.
Thanks! So many people have loved that book so I’m looking forward to it 🙂 I just realised it’s also by the same author of Priory of the Orange Tree?
I think they’re different authors?
Really curious about ruin of kings and darkness into light now. I also really need to read fifth season! And name of the wind is a good one to pick. Awesome list!!
Thanks! The Ruin of Kings is one that I think is tough for some readers, but you might love it! Turning Darkness into Light was just excellent all around and I loved so much about that one. Fifth Season won a lot of awards for a reason, it definitely shows in the writing. 🙂
Awesome! I’ve added them both to my tbr 😀 Ah brilliant- can’t wait to read it! It’s been on my tbr ages!
Look forward to your thoughts!
The Historian – the beauty of a book Mum gifted me and would you believe? In a move, I forgot which box I put it in? This goes from the time of pub til now and I still am clueless which box is which – one of these days, eh?
LOL, sometimes that happens. I have lost track of books before, when you have so many sometimes this is just the case. 😀 I actually listened to this one on audio, got it out from the library, it was pretty good in audio although the structure made it an interesting listen and I may have benefited from being able to flip back and forth to various pages while reading, but it all came together in the end. 🙂
This is a really good theme.and would you believe I’ve read all of these. Yay.
That’s awesome! 🙂
Some great recommendations here. I still would like to read Ruin of Kings and the Historian sounds so interesting.
For some reason, my mind went blank as soon as I tried to think of some stories that fit this prompt.
Thanks, I enjoyed both of those a lot. LOL, I honestly had that issue last week and had to switch the topic at the last minute haha. 🙂